Westboro bails

Westboro Baptist Church based out of Kansas, had publicized its intent to protest the Performance Riverside production of “The Laramie Project,” which opened on the night of Nov. 20. As word spread throughout the community, many people organized to form a counter-protest.

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By Desiree Perez

United together

By Desiree Perez

After most classes are usually out, the streets and hallways around the A.G. Paul Quadrangle and Landis Auditorium continued to draw a crowd.

Westboro Baptist Church based out of Kansas, had publicized its intent to protest the Performance Riverside production of “The Laramie Project,” which opened on the night of Nov. 20.

As word spread throughout the community, many people organized to form a counter-protest.

At approximately 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, hundreds of community members, students and Riverside City College staff had gathered in front of the Martin Luther King building.

Chief of the Riverside Community College District Police, James Miyashiro, commented on the crowd.

“It looks like maybe 200 to 300 people,” Miyashiro said. “It’s (on an) individual basis.”

RCC Police were lined up in the street between the growing crowd and the Landis Auditorium. Each officer had a riot helmet and other protective gear.

Despite the size of the crowd present to protest against Westboro Baptist Church, Miyashiro was confident that he and his colleagues could contain the crowd.

“I imagine it going down very peaceful,” he said. “We have policies and procedures.”

At approximately 8 p.m., “The Laramie Project” performance began in Room 144 in the Quad.

Protesters from Westboro never made an appearance. “The rumor is that they got stuck in traffic,” Miyashiro said.

Soon after the performance had started, RCC Police were called off the scene and the official demonstration was over.

Despite the church’s absence, counter-protesters like Brandon Wagner, president of the UC Riverside Queer People of Color group, gleaned a sense of hope from the turnout.

“I did not imagine it would be this big,” Wagner said. “Look around. Clearly, we do care.”

Cal Baptist University alumnus, Vanessa Runner, also commented on the gathering, noting the unity in its message despite the diversity of its members.

“I’m a Christian, Republican and I’m straight, and I’m here to stand against hate,” Runner said.

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